It looks like Democrats have been watching those televised Cabinet meetings where agency heads take turns praising President Trump. A couple decided on Wednesday, during a bipartisan meeting at the White House, that the way to get Trump on board with new gun-control measures is to flatter him on TV.
It could be a smart strategy.
The president practically asked for an ego boost when, after Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) lamented Congress's failures to expand background checks, Trump said: “But you have a different president now. You went through a lot of presidents, and you didn't get it done.”
Murphy took the hint and, with cable news channels airing the session live, said that Trump alone could accomplish what his predecessors could not.
“We will get 60 votes on a bill that looks like the Manchin-Toomey compromise on background checks, Mr. President, if you support it,” Murphy said. “If you come to Congress and you come to Republicans and say, 'We are going to do a Manchin-Toomey-like bill to get comprehensive background checks,' it will pass. ... Mr. President, it's going to have to be you that brings the Republicans to the table on this because, right now, the gun lobby would stop it in its tracks.”
Trump ate it up.
“I like that responsibility, Chris, I really do,” the president said. “I think it's time. It's time that a president stepped up. We haven't had him, and I'm talking Democrat and Republican presidents. They have not stepped up.”
Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), co-sponsor of a background-check amendment that failed in 2013, also pitched Trump on an opportunity to succeed where former president Barack Obama fell short.
“Mr. President,” Manchin said, “there's not a person in West Virginia who believes you're not going to defend their Second Amendment rights. Not a person. With you taking a lead on something like this, it gives them the comfort that something reasonable — and this bill's been vetted for over five years, and over 70, 80 percent even of gun owners say, 'We like your bill, Pat and Joe. We're just afraid that President Obama would take it further, take more rights away.' That's what I was running into in West Virginia.”
“This is a bill that, basically, with your support, it would pass,” he added.
Manchin and Murphy have a point, by the way. As The Fix's Aaron Blake wrote this week, “Trump is probably uniquely able to make something happen” because of the credibility he has built with gun owners and the National Rifle Association.
Trump seems fully aware of his clout. In recent days, he has mocked fellow Republicans for being afraid of the NRA as a way of underscoring his relative strength. Be he also seems to want others — particularly Democrats — to publicly acknowledge his power.
Manchin and Murphy gave Trump what he wanted Wednesday.